Pubdate: Mon, 28 Feb 2005
Source: Pawtucket Times (RI)
Copyright: 2005 The Pawtucket Times
Author: Jim Baron
Cited: Marijuana Policy Project ( )
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


The medical marijuana bill introduced by Sen. Rhoda Perry and Rep. Thomas 
Slater should give us some interesting insights into the workings of the 
General Assembly this session.

Does the leadership carry out the will of the majority of members, or do 
the House Speaker and Senate President -- with a Caesar-like thumbs-up or 
thumbs-down, or just a Machiavellian nod and wink -- dictate which bills 
will pass and which will die.

I point to the medical marijuana bill because it seems to have the support 
it needs for passage. The House bill has 50 co-sponsors -- two out of every 
three House members put their name on the measure (that's more votes than 
the budget is likely to get if the DeSimone dissident coalition holds) -- 
and the Senate version has, at last count, 18, two short of the number of 
votes needed for guaranteed passage.

Sen. Perry said the goal is to gather enough votes to make the legislation 
veto-proof, should the governor object to it.

It is not known what the governor thinks about the bill at this point, he 
was understandably a bit pre-occupied when I called the office last week to 
get his opinion on it.

Rep. Slater says the state health department won't come out in favor of the 
bill, but it won't actively oppose it, either.

Last year the bill had some support, but not quite as much as this time 
around. It died in committee in the Senate and the House passed a Sub A 
that turned it into one of those legislative study commissions.

If anyone was even appointed to serve on the commission, it might as well 
have been Amelia Earhart, because the commission has never been heard from, 
even though the law of the state calls for it to make recommendations to 
the House Speaker by Tuesday.

According to someone in a position to know, it was Speaker Murphy's 
opposition that blocked the bill last year.

If it does pass, Rhode Island would be one of the few states to get a 
medical marijuana law through the legislative process.

When I was researching the story on the Perry/Slater bill, this was the 
part I found most fascinating.

While politicians treat medical marijuana as though it caused, rather than 
ameliorated, dreaded diseases, fearing repercussions at the polls during 
the next election, when voters themselves have a chance to weigh in on the 
issue in voter initiative referendums, they tend to pass it. Most of the 
states that now have medical marijuana laws got them through the initiative 

Politicians are the only ones who misgauge the public will on medical 

The Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project conducted a poll in 
Rhode Island that found 69 percent of people in favor of allowing seriously 
ill people to possess marijuana to ease their symptoms. But when the same 
set of respondents were asked if they thought others in the state felt the 
same way, only 26.5 percent said yes.

Almost 56 percent said they felt the majority of fellow Rhode Islanders 
would be opposed.

"It is a constant source of frustration for us," MPP's communications 
director Bruce Mirken said last week. "The public is so strongly in favor 
or medical marijuana protections, but the politicians are skittish."

Maybe if Perry and Slater's efforts on behalf of medical marijuana aren't 
successful in providing relief to seriously ill people this year, then 
maybe Sen. Marc Cote's voter initiative proposal will do it in the long run.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager